Television crime dramas have always been hugely popular, and over the last few years, those with an insatiable appetite for the darker end of the genre have been treated to series not just from the UK, but from Scandinavia as well.
The original series of BROADCHURCH was broadcast in 2013. Adhering to many of the established tropes of the genre, it succeeded where many had failed by having believable characters, excellent performances, interesting locations, and above all a clever, well-written script that was almost a masterclass in how to include red herrings and not make them seem like padding.
The body of an eleven year old boy is found on a beach in West Dorset. David Tennant is Alec Hardy, the Policeman With A Past From Elsewhere who is assigned to investigate. The script has also given Hardy a medical condition but again, this is all clever enough that we don’t feel his character has been too battered by a script hungry for melodrama. Olivia Colman is Ellie Miller, passed over for promotion in favour of Hardy, and assigned as his sidekick. Hardy has come from elsewhere, but Colman is local, and is an integral part of this small community that is about to be torn apart by the revelations which follow.
I’m not going to say any more about BROADCHURCH series one as you really should watch it if you haven’t already. The odd couple detective pairing works well and never feels forced. The eight episodes fly by, and the ending is utterly gut wrenching, even for this kind of drama. Again, full marks for all concerned for not allowing the denouement to turn into absurdist melodrama but instead something far more believable and therefore far more affecting. The ending also allows for a second series, announced before the credits have even run on the final episode.
BROADCHURCH SERIES 2 is something of a different beast, but at least it's an ambitious one. The easy way would have been to have Tennant and Colman investigating an entirely new case. Instead, the second series continues straight on from where the first one ended, set in the same community and with much of the same cast returning. Again, it’s difficult to talk too much about it if you haven’t seen the first series, but basically we continue with the two plot strands - that of the Broadchurch murder and Hardy’s previous case in Sandbrook that went horribly wrong. The problems arise because in order to keep these threads interesting, everything becomes rather more unbelievable than what we’ve been primed to expect from series one. It’s still a good ride, and the cast are always watchable, especially Tennant and Colman, with sterling support from Jodie Whittaker, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Andrew Buchan, and this time we get Charlotte Rampling as well!
There are far more extras on Acorn Media’s release of BROADCHURCH SERIES TWO discs than series one. These include over forty minutes of deleted scenes, making of featurettes, pieces on the stars and writer Chris Chibnall, and interviews with Jode Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Eve Myles, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Chris Chibnall and producer Richard Stokes. It’s an excellent package - just don’t expect quite the high quality of Series One and you can still have a good time with it.
Oh, and BROADCHURCH SERIES THREE has been announced, so let’s hope series two is just a bridging gap in the best crime series television has seen in ages.
BROADCHURCH SERIES TWO has just been released on Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray by Acorn Media. SERIES ONE is still available.